EARTHQUAKE IN HAITI: medical team working in the hospital of hope

by Simone Winneg/Dieter Schmidt/SRI, 2010/01/16

Yesterday (Friday) afternoon, they arrived in the disaster area: the humedica relief team of eight was exhausted from the long journey; nevertheless, the doctors immediately began treating patients. The current report given to us by our coordinators Simone Winneg and Dieter Schmidt is both sad and hopeful at the same time.

Like all members of the team, coordinator Simone Winneg was distressed by the situation in Port-au-Prince. Foto: humedica/Dieter Schmidt

“A long yet good day draws to a close. A day of frightening first impressions and pleasant surprises. The first unfortunately sad moment: The meeting arranged with our local partner CSI failed to take place, their truck wasn’t there and we couldn’t reach any of their staffers in Haiti. Therefore we drove to the border in our hired van and – fortunately – were just waved through.

Across the country, we drove to a health centre run by our partner CSI that is located eight miles outside Port-au-Prince. The closer we came to the capital, the larger was the extent of the damage: crumbled windows, collapsed building shells and walls – or completely tilted houses.

A first exploratory walk through the town centre made it clear to us why the situation is so difficult: whole blocks of houses have collapsed, large shopping buildings have been reduced to piles of rubble, crushed cars sit under heavy lumps of stone. That there are still people below seems absurd too me.

It seems unreal to imagine that someone might still be recovered alive from the rubble. Crowds of people are gathered around the debris, looking for family members or friends. Again and again, the stench of death enters your nostrils, so pungent that it hurts. The stench of burnt flesh hangs over the entrance to the cemetery of Port-au-Prince.

A photo that has a symbolic character: Long-term aid workers were not spared by damage and great suffering either. Foto: humedica/Jens Großmann

Water, electricity, food, petrol – everything is scarce or no longer available. After these horrible, frightening impressions, our work seems immensely important to us.

From today, Saturday, onwards, we will work in a hospital in the middle of Port-au-Prince that has been closed down due to a lack of staff and materials. The hospital is in a good condition, hardly any damage, an intact operating theatre, x-ray, laboratory, inpatient admission – everything is possible and seems to be working. The hospital was founded by the organization FONDATION POUR LES ENFANTS D'HAITI and is called “Hôpital Espoir” (”hospital of hope”).

Meanwhile, 50.000 people are reported dead by local news; the essential goods that are needed most are water, food, medical aid, blankets and – as we think – tents. Everywhere on the town’s large squares you see people sleeping under sheets or fabrics, on blankets or on bare ground.

On the first day, we were moved by the fate of a little boy: 5-year-old Quinz suffered a severe fracture of the femoral neck as well as a concussion and is lying apathetically on a couch in the school we are visiting. He is our first patient in urgent need of help and is applied a special dressing according to the instructions of Prof. Dr. Dr. Bernd Domres (Tübingen) – this is the only way to help the fracture heal well and without operation. We hope that later today we will be able to treat him optimally when we continue our work in the „hospital of hope“.

Coordinator Dieter Schmidt has the opportunity to advance further into the west, where no medical teams have arrived yet.

At the same time we would still like to ask people in Germany and all friends and supporters of humedica for donations which enable us to help. Thank you for your support.

Simone Winneg and Dieter Schmidt on behalf of the humedica-team in Port-au-Prince

Prof. Dr. Dr. Bernd Domres is one of the most renowned specialists in disaster medicine in Germany. Shortly after their arrival the team already delivered medical aid. Foto: humedica/Jens Großmann

humedica and the relief organization organisation Kindernothilfe will combine their skills and possibilities for a successful implementation of all aid projects in Haiti. Among those who support the aid projects is the charity foundation set up by the Axel Springer publishing house, „Ein Herz für Kinder“ (“A heart for children”).

humedica is still asking people in Germany and beyond for their concrete support of the measures planned through donations to the following account:
      humedica e. V.
      Reference„Earthquake Haiti"
      Account47 47
      Bank code734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

PLEASE ALSO DONATE ONLINE. Thank you very much.

Note for representatives of the media: If there is any interest, the medical teams will be available for telephone and live-interviews. For further information, please contact humedica-press spokesman Steffen Richter.

Above that, on Sunday, 17th of January, from 2pm onwards journalists will have the possibility to be present during and document the departure of a part of the new team (as well as the relief goods) at the humedica-headquarters in Kaufbeuren.

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